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Bridget Walsh’s Tumbling Girl Tour of London

  • Submitted: 22nd October 2023

Bridget Walsh’s Tumbling Girl Tour of London

Today, Bridget Walsh came to BookTrail Towers to take me – and you – around London. There was a knock at the door, I opened it, and Bridget did a forward roll past me and entered BookTrail Towers. Now THAT is an entrance and very Tumbling Girl!

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

The Tumbling Girl set in LONDON - Bridget Walsh

Bridget Walsh

Bridget Walsh

 

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

Although I now live in the fine city of Norwich, I’m a Londoner born and bred. When I started writing The Tumbling Girl, London just seemed the obvious setting, but I needed to research some buildings that are not necessarily on every tourist’s to-do list.

Events in The Tumbling Girl centre round the Variety Palace, a rather shambolic, somewhat down-at-hell music hall on the Strand.

 

 

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

London once teemed with music halls just like the Palace, but now only two working halls remain: Wilton’s, off Cable Street; and Hoxton Hall in Shoreditch, about a twenty-minute walk from Liverpool Street Station.

Wiltons from the outside:

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

I was lucky enough to have an access-all-areas tour of Hoxton Hall with the lovely George Wakely and this beautifully-preserved venue is the place I always envisage when I think of the Variety Palace. It was built in 1863, and it really does feel like stepping back into the past. It’s a small venue, with a capacity of about 300 people, but the Victorians would very likely have crammed in far more than that – health and safety was not very high on anyone’s list of priorities at the time.

Hoxton Hall (c) Bridget Walsh

Hoxton Hall (c) Bridget Walsh

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

Being given the opportunity to explore backstage was particularly helpful, because that’s where much of the action of The Tumbling Girl and subsequent novels in the series takes place, rather than the more public space of the stage and auditorium. As anyone will know who’s been backstage at a theatre or entertainment venue, it’s much smaller than you envisage and far less glamorous than what the public get to see. It’s cramped and intimate and can feel chaotic to an outsider, but this space is home for Minnie, my protagonist,  and the other acts at the Palace. I like to think of it as the space where the real work gets done.

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

Hoxton Hall (c) Bridget Walsh

Hoxton Hall (c) Bridget Walsh

Hoxton Hall runs a full and varied programme of shows and activities and is well worth a visit.

 Sambourne House (c) Bridget Walsh

Sambourne House (c) Bridget Walsh

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

Alongside the Variety Palace, I also needed to get a feel for those more conventional, domestic interiors. In my novel, Lionel Winter is an aspiring MP and his home is loosely based on Sambourne House, 18 Stafford Terrace, Kensington. Linley Sambourne was a cartoonist, illustrator and photographer, best known for his work on Punch and for Charles Kingsley’s The Water Babies. He moved into the house with his family in 1875 and they redecorated in the aesthetic style, with stained glass windows, Morris & Co. and Japanese embossed wallpapers, and painted and decorated furniture.

Sambourne House (c) Bridget Walsh

Sambourne House (c) Bridget Walsh

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

As you’d expect from a Victorian interior, the house is full of stuff. There’s an inventory made after the Sambournes had been living there just two years. This shows they already owned over 50 vases, 70 chairs and 700 framed pictures. After Linley and his wife Marion died, the interior of Stafford Terrace was largely preserved by their children and granddaughter. So, the house today remains very much as they left it.

Lord Leighton’s house at 12 Holland Park Road:

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

Less than half a mile from Sambourne House is Lord Leighton’s house at 12 Holland Park Road. Leighton was a painter and sculptor, probably best known now for his painting ‘Flaming June’. The house looks relatively plain and unadorned from the front, but don’t let that put you off – Leighton’s interiors are nothing short of remarkable. I’d seen photographs, but never been until I started writing The Tumbling Girl and needed an exotic home for Teddy Linton.

arab room (c) Bridget Walsh

Arab room (c) Bridget Walsh

Discover the locations in The Tumbling Girl

His house is a work of art in itself. For example, the Arab Hall is based on a 12th-century palace and features the work of William De Morgan and Walter Crane among others. It’s heavily tiled and there is a gold mosaic frieze running around the room and a small fountain in the middle.  Pictures do not do this place justice. I urge you to take a visit next time you’re in London. The house has recently undergone some development, and there’s now the addition of a cafe and shop. This is yet another reason to visit! As I write this, I’m reminded to go back. One visit to this amazing house is never enough.

Thanks Bridget!

Oh she’s off -she’s tumbled out and again and rolled into the car taking her home. Till next time!

 

BookTrail Boarding Pass:The Tumbling Girl

Twitter: @bridget_walsh1

 

 

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